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The Psychology of Halloween: 3 Reasons We Crave the Scare

Matching the experience we feel inside

Halloween is an opportunity to align ourselves from the inside out with our own psychological feeling.

It makes us feel completely alive in a split second -- like a wake-up call.

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The Psychology of Halloween: 3 Reasons We Crave the Scare

The Psychology of Halloween: 3 Reasons We Crave the Scare

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/halloween-fright-night-3-_b_8412574

huffpost.com

3

Key Ideas

Power

The very idea of "tricking" has the implicit idea of getting one over on another and therefore being triumphant.

Our hearts race, we sweat, and blood rushes to our faces in anticipation. The same happens to the person on the other side of the trick.

We love to expect the unexpected

We crave the adrenalin and excitement that goes along with being scared and in scaring.

Horror movies and hide-and-seek have a similar sensorial experience.

Matching the experience we feel inside

Halloween is an opportunity to align ourselves from the inside out with our own psychological feeling.

It makes us feel completely alive in a split second -- like a wake-up call.

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The 'dark factor'

A love of horror movies is associated with an underlying dimension of entertainment preferences, dubbed "the dark factor".

Those with dark tastes value intensity, edginess and rebellion. Thei...

The pleasure paradox

Some derive enjoyment from negative emotional states, as when enjoying a "good cry", for instance.

A study found that people who liked sad films enjoyed a scene relative to how much sadness it elicited. The stronger the sadness, the higher the enjoyment.

Trick or treat

Halloween seems to bring out excesses in costumed children and adults.

Several studies revealed that costumed children who were anonymous — by wearing masks for instance — were more likely to take extra candies. In adults, costumed Halloween celebrators tend to have higher blood alcohol readings than people in plain clothes.

Feeling rewarded

According to a 2008 study, dopamine is responsible for feelings of accomplishment and rewards, but it's also been linked to averse emotions like fear and dread.

People who enjoy fearful o...

It can bring people together
Fear, rather than scattering people screaming into the night, might actually make them huddle closer together.

We build a special closeness with those we are with when we're in an excited or scared state.

The right kind of fear

The fun of Halloween is that you can experience the thrill of fear without any real threat.

It's all about triggering the fight-or-flight response to experience the flood of adrenaline, endorphins, and dopamine, but in a completely safe space.

The Horror Movie

Horror is a genre that has a reputation of being a low, somewhat trashy, titillating genre that appeals to our basest instincts. 
"Its also a wonderful, popular art form through which...

For a work to be classified as horror...

... it has to have a monster, which has to be threatening in some way. The monster is often otherworldly or violates the laws of nature, as in Alien or Jaws—but some argue that a human character can be a monster, as in Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, and Halloween.

The monster generally is otherworldly or violates the laws of nature and is designed to elicit disgust as an emotion.

"The beast within"

This is the most popular theory explaining the genre’s popularity and it argues that an unconscious, repressed part of every human is actually savage; that the veneer of civility is very thin, and beneath that is essentially a monster.

Although we consciously disapprove of what the monster is doing, deep down part of us enjoys seeing the murder and mayhem the monster unleashes—because if we could, we would do that.

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Ancient Origins of Halloween

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, in the area that is now Ireland.  On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the gho...

All Saints' Day
  • On May 13, 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established. Pope Gregory III later expanded the festival and moved the observance from May 13 to November 1.
  • The influence of Christianity spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted older Celtic rites. In 1000 A.D., the church made November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. It was probably done to replace the Celtic festival.
  • All Souls’ Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. The All Saints’ Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas, and eventually, Halloween.
Halloween Comes to America

The celebration of Halloween was limited in colonial New England, but as the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups and the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with Irish immigrants, fleeing the Irish Potato Famine. This helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally.

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The greatest motivation
The most motivational statement comes down to three words: “You’re gonna die.”

You get one life and one chance to make yourself happy. Instead of sitting and complaining about not purs...

The life you want
No matter your age, you have the time to make yourself happy:
  • If you’re in your early 20s, most likely you don't have major life commitments, so this is the time to take the chance on the life you want: travel, experiment with your talents, start networking.
  • If you’re in your 40s, 50s, 60s, or older, instead of retiring and taking up golf, maybe it’s time to triple down and really focus on what you want. 
Stop making excuses
There’s this tendency people have to pass over opportunities when they think they can just “come back to it later.” People are living their lives like they have unlimited time. 

The biggest poison we encounter as humans is regret, so stop making excuses and start making yourself happy.

Face and Embrace Your Impermanence

Make room in this season to turn inward and become still.

Are you overcoming your fears and go after your dreams? When we can acknowledge your impermanence without letting feelings tak...

Face and Embrace Your Inner Demons

Try to identify areas in your life that make you feel all rigid inside, ashamed, judgmental or angry. Under rigidities is where your inner demons hide and when you look them straight in the eye, they tend to disappear.

Primary factors that make horror films alluring
  • Tension - Generated by suspense, mystery, terror, shock and gore.
  • Relevance - The horror film may relate to personal relevance, cultural meaningfulness, the fea...
Viewing motivators for horror movies
  • Gore watchers typically have low empathy, high sensation seeking, and a strong identification with the killer.
  • Thrill watchers typically have both high empathy and sensation seeking;they identify themselves more with the victims and like the suspense of the film.
  • Independent watchers typically have a high empathy for the victim along with a high positive effect for overcoming fear.
  • Problem watchers typically have high empathy for the victim but are characterized by negative effect (particularly a sense of helplessness).
Theories on why we love to watch horror films
  • Dr. Carl Jung believed horror films “tapped into primordial archetypes buried deep in our collective subconscious – images like shadow and mother play important role in the horror genre”.
  • Horror films are watched as a way of purging negative emotions and/or as a way to relieve pent-up aggression.
  • Horror movies are enjoyed because the people on screen getting killed deserve it.
  • Cultural historian David Skal has argued that horror films simply reflect our societal fears.
Consider the context

We can fall victim to psychological barriers when we try to cling to general wisdom and favor absolutes, rather than act as we should.
We implement best practices without considering the...

Pike Syndrome

It's a feeling of powerlessness caused by repeated negative events. Maybe you’re a designer whose boss keeps shooting down ideas, for example.

In school, we are taught that there are right and wrong answers, and we learn to treat every task at work like we have to find the right answer. We don't look for a better option because we are only concerned with the right answer.

The Foraging Choice

It's the decision between using your current position and exploring other options. When we are stressed, we will rather hold on to our current position and exploit it than searching for another opportunity.

However, if we looked at our current position in context, we would be more confident to try something else. It means understanding what you want to achieve in the future and how you take advantage of today.

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Nostalgia

Nostalgia is not the enemy of progress. Nostalgia is very motivational. People in a nostalgic mood are more optimistic about their future and inspired to pursue their goals.

For ins...

Triggering nostalgia

Smells, tastes, photographs, and even music can trigger nostalgia.

The songs we listen to can be markers of notable events in our lives that can connect the past with the future.

Psychological safety in team building
Team members need to feel comfortable speaking up to create the communication dynamics necessary for success.

It all comes down to trust, which is one of the characteristics teambuilding...

For an effective teambuilding:
  • Think outside the box when defining the format that works best for all team-members;
  • Avoid activities where people are singled out and might feel embarrassed. These create the opposite of the trust-building effect needed to build strong teams.
  • Effective teambuilding allows teams to tackle an achievable challenge together. Working through a challenge together increases oxytocin and group cohesiveness.